Navigating the healthcare system: getting answers for your loved one
Common problems include:
- Doctor’s appointments are short and fact based.
- Patients may feel intimidated with the number of appointments and doctors to see.
- No one keeps track of medications – patients and families struggle to understand what each one does and when to take it (taking expired or the wrong combination of medication can be fatal).
- Not understanding what different specialists do.
- Keeping track of specialists appointments.
- Difficulty in getting an appointment fast when you need one.
- Knowing when to use ER versus after hours clinics.
Physicians and nurses are well trained and have all the right intentions. Today’s healthcare system saves many lives; people live longer and the quality of life has improved. But (this is a big BUT ), there are many mistakes made by practitioners. At times, it takes tremendous effort on the part of family and the patient to get answers, to get care organized and most importantly to get to the root of the problem.
What is going on?
How come well trained and well intentioned professionals seem to allow patients to fall through the cracks sometimes? It isn’t intentional. There are many reasons and here are just a few:
- Care is available for everyone which can overwhelm the system.
- As people live longer, there is a large growing number of elderly clients.
- Technology hinders information sharing – not all patient record information is available to all health care providers, only what is sent from family doctors’ office.
- LIHN (local integrated health networks) or different community agencies not consistent in providing same number of hours or same level of care depending on where you live.
- The focus is often on acute or new issues rather than dealing with chronic or long standing problems.
- There are a number of funding issues, union issues and licensing issues – what pharmaceuticals are available and what is not covered under OHIP.
Based on these factors and more: How do you navigate with what you are given? What can you do? What questions to ask? Who is to keep track of medications and appointments? Where to go for answers about specific information?
I’ve Been There
I have asked myself these questions too when my father suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury and other injuries. He was in an explosion at work 8 years ago. I was shocked, as an Registered Nurse working in the Intensive Care Unit , that much of what was available was disorganized and no one really took responsibility for my father’s well being and plan of care. WE as a family had to take matters into our own hands.
As a Nurse Manager, I saw this happening repeatedly. People fall through the cracks- but not all is lost. There is a way to get answers, keep track and understand who is responsible and what you can do to ensure information, care, planning, medications and all appointments are explained. YOU can have peace of mind.
Based on experience with my father and my extensive Nursing background, I saw the gap in healthcare and created a solution with my Patient Advocacy Program.
The Advocacy Program has a two pronged approach:
We offer a workshop that is full of information including, how to’s, templates of what and how to keep track of vital information, definitions of what different health care service are for or about. We also teach you what to take with you, when you go to the hospital and what extra costs you might incur if you don’t take care of it ahead of time (such as extra cost of transportation to and from hospital).
We also offer a personal private and confidential service. We come to you and personally assess, go with you to appointments, create the templates, report back to family members about results. All of this will bring you the tools, answers, information and knowledge that your loved one is taken care of. We offer caring, education, planning, advocacy and peace of mind.
Where ever you go to get support be sure you consider the tools, resources and background of those offering assistance. Building and maintaining a trusting relationship, as well as a partnership where your needs and concerns are addressed should be a priority. There is much information to sift through – terminology, technology, how to communicate effectively with health care teams are skills and necessary tools for advocates to have. You as a consumer have rights and responsibilities. You do have the right to information and explanation of that information. You also have the right to have choices and understand the consequences of your choices. Let us help you get the peace of mind you deserve. We promise to empower you with knowledge and good old fashioned kindness and caring.
Here are additional resources to help you when considering a Healthcare Advocate: